Asterix fans would probably recall a particular issue of the famed comic series in which Getafix, the village druid- who makes the Gauls superhumans with his magic potion- embarks on an annual druids conference. The next few pages in the issue depict Getafix having a ball with his druid chums each of whom is accomplished in his own right. The druids also enter their inventions to compete for the coveted ‘Golden Menhir” that Getafix ultimately ends up winning.
Before you wonder if this post is about the Asterix series (which I love to revisit endlessly) let me shift the focus back to our good old ‘magic potion’ viz. wine. Recently when a sommelier friend came visiting at Delhi, I approached a couple of close wine friends for a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) gathering and the Gaulish druids conference was the first thing that came to my mind. Only here, we had different professionals connected to the wine trade bringing in their unique experiences- and of course a cherished wine from their respecive personal collection.
The visitor was Kamal Malik, currently the Head Sommelier of the prestigious hotel Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Kamal has been a close friend ever since the two of us embarked on a scholarship trip to Champagne. Hitting it off well, we kept in contact thereafter – exchanging wine notes and meeting up whenever the opportunity arose. And this was one such opportunity albeit a better planned one.
Apart from the two of us, the other vinos were Rajiv Singhal, the Ambassador of Champagne in India (under whose tutelage we had undertaken the Champagne trip), Arjun Sachar, a young wine professional with a French cooperage and the husband-wife team of Sumit and Chiquita Gulati who own a wine savvy restaurant called Gulati Spice Market in the heart of New Delhi (also our venue for the evening). Our kitty for the proposed rendezvous was quite inspiring , with a Champagne, a Burgundy Premier Cru, two Bordeaux Grands Crus and a Spanish dessert wine.
Came D day and we scrambled with pre chilled wine bottles to the venue. This was a meeting where no instructions had to be passed- the importance of chilling, decanting and sequencing being a matter of unsaid wine propriety. The venue owners being on our side, we were good on the food front too. And so the indulgence commenced:
Champagne Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis
This was the first cork to be popped for the day. Being a worthy guardian of his protégé, Rajiv initially suggested that we serve the Champagne at number two after the Burgundy, but Kamal was able to convince him for serving the Champagne au début.
Alfred Gratien is an Epernay based producer widely known as an artisanal winemaker with a distinctly vinous wine style. Cuvée Paradis is their prestige offering with a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A delightful Champagne, it poured with a luxuriant mousse, thereafter retaining the visual appeal with a persistent bead of fine bubbles. Its complexity could be sensed right from the nose which expressed layered aromas of red and dried fruits. A lush and medium bodied palate followed by a lingering finish completed the experience.We were served an assortment of cheeses, dips and crackers and mildly flavoured tapas that made the match more than ideal. We couldn’t have expected lesser from an Ambassadeur du Champagne. Could we?
Château de Blagny Meursault 2006 by Louis Latour
When Arjun Sachar discussed this wine with me before finalising it for our rendezvous, he was on better side of caution, given the wine’s vintage- being a white. However both of us decided to include it solely on its pedigree. After all it was from the famed limestone soils of Côte de Beaune! The wine did not disappoint either. Initially appearing as “over the hill”, it had us all discussing as to how good it must have been in its prime. The next sip and we were humbled because the aromas and flavours arrived as if from thin air. This was a delicately perfumed wine redolent of white flowers, peaches and melons. Nutty/ oxidative aromas lent it a pleasant complexity. The wine retained its acidity admirably well rendering it a good balance. Arjun received a well deserved pat on the back for deciding to open this wine just in time.
Château Giscours Grand Cru 2000 and 2009
A wine that was received by me as a gift two years back, Giscours 2000 was preserved just for an occasion like this. What I didn’t anticipate was that Rajiv would offer another vintage of this Troisième Grand Cru to enable a mini vertical tasting. These two wines were undoubtedly the stars of the evening. Each of them decanted for an hour plus, they offered an entirely different spectrum of aromas/flavours that beautifully demonstrated the evolution of a high quality wine with time. While Giscours 2000 had gamey, meaty and tobacco aromas followed by a savoury palate of , bacon, chocolate and spice, Giscours 2009 was more sophisticated with characteristics of blackberries, vanilla, cassis and berry compote. Nothing could have matched the rustic Indian preparations of Burrah Kabab (Char grilled lamb ribs) and Galouti Kababs on Sheermal ( Finely minced pan fried lamb kababs over baked sweetened bread) better.
Torres Floralis-Moscatel Oro
Apart from playing generous hosts for this eclectic outing, Sumit and Chiquita Gulati also pitched in with this wine to round off the experience. Hence this surprise inclusion was no less than the “Golden Menhir” for all of us. Torres Floralis-Moscatel Oro has a radiant golden colour with aromas of white flowers spice and honey. It has a luxuriant palate of honey, licorice, dried fruits and white pepper. The Moong Dal Cigar with Rabri dip (Cooked lentils in sugar syrup stuffed in filo pastry and served with thickened milk dip) matched the voluptuous wine rather well.
Thus concluded our “druids conference” where all of us felt like winners. More than anything, this was a rendezvous about friends meeting on a common platform of wine passion and ‘letting the hair down’ without bothering about taking notes or pouring pre defined measures.
After all wine is no less than Getafix’s magic potion! Isn’t it?